NICE AND EASY: What is an “STB?”

The other day, one of my coworkers asked me what an “STB” is. I was actually a little surprised until I realized that the term hasn’t really been used much in the last couple of years. The world of entertainment is littered with old acronyms that don’t mean anything anymore, and I guess “STB” is just one of them. Let me explain a little more about this:

It’s your satellite box​

An “STB” is a satellite receiver. Actually it’s any box that connects to your television, but it’s generally used to describe a satellite or cable box. Simple as that.

The term stands for “set-top box” and goes back 30 years to the days when cable TV first started requiring separate tuners. The first cablesystems were really simple and just used your TV’s off-air tuner. Then, they started using clear QAM for their signals, but most TV’s of the day weren’t cable-ready. So they needed some sort of adapter to make it all work. That was referred to as a “set-top box” because, well, people put it on top of the television set. (Yes, we called them television sets back then and sometimes I still do. Shoot me.)

Remember that at the time, televisions looked like this:


and they had plenty of space on the top to put stuff. Today the most you could probably put on top of a TV is a pencil.

The gradual drift of the term “STB”​

The term “STB” was used by the industry for so long that it actually stopped even having a real meaning. After all, people started mounting their boxes on the back of the TV (prompting some people to start calling them “set-back boxes,” which never caught on) or putting them in entertainment centers.

Today, technically you could call a streaming box an STB, but I bet no one does. Really the only time I see the term still used is on diagrams where they are trying to save space. Using “STB” is a lot smaller than using “satellite receiver” and the two things mean the same.

The invisible STB and why it didn’t catch on​

Really, the end of the road for this sort of thing came with smart TVs. Smart TVs rolled out in the early 2010s as people started taking to streaming. Today, they’re so common that people just call them “TVs.” With a smart TV, you don’t need any sort of STB because it’s all built in.

The thing is that the average life of a TV is long enough that people still end up putting in streaming and satellite boxes because the software in their smart TVs can’t hold up to today’s demands. So, if you think about it, the STB is still alive and well in that sense.

Just thinking about it​

It makes me wonder what other little obsolete phrases and abbreviations I still use that no one else uses. I’m sure my much younger coworkers will tell me. I’m lucky to work at Solid Signal, where we have a full complement of technicians available if I have any questions. They’re available to you too, free of charge. If you have questions about any of the great products you’ll find at, just call 888-233-7563 or fill out the form below!

The post NICE AND EASY: What is an “STB?” appeared first on The Solid Signal Blog.

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STB remains a useful term today to describe whatever device is connected to your display that enables you to use your subscription. This includes DTV converters, cable boxes, streaming devices, cable and satellite DVRs, satellite receivers and whole home clients.
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